FM Conway, a leading highways and utilities contractor in the capital, was caught illegally connecting to the water network while carrying out re-surfacing work.
It was caught on two occasions connecting to fire hydrants with illegal standpipes in September 2018 in New Bond Street and Cork Street. It was then caught by Thames Water doing the same thing two months later in Kilburn.
Speaking at Westminster Magistrates’ Court, District Judge Michael Snow said that this could have damaged the hydrants or reduced their pressure, putting the public at risk.
The contractor pleaded guilty to three offences under the Water Industry Act 1991 and was ordered to pay a fine of £4,950, costs of £2,750 and a victim surcharge of £170.
Any organisation taking water from the network is required to obtain a licence from the regional water company and use an approved standpipe so the amount taken can be measured. Fire hydrants must also not be used when taking water for activities like street cleaning or drinking.
Thames Water investigator Steve Johnston said: “Illegally connecting to a fire hydrant is incredibly irresponsible and we’re pleased the judge highlighted this. We’re working round-the-clock to reduce leakage and asking customers to save water as our population increases and climate changes, so it is completely unreasonable for companies to behave in this way.
“We’ll always look to work with companies to help them comply with the law but where lessons are not learnt we will take stronger action.”
Thames Water said that it loses hundreds of thousands of litres of water a day to individuals and companies illegally connecting to its pipe network. Everything taken is classed as leakage. Last year Thames Water had to pay out £120m in repayments and penalties for failing to control leaks.
A spokesperson for FM Conway said: “We accept the judge’s ruling and recognise that the high standards we expect of our teams were not followed in these instances. Prior to the case being heard, we have already moved to put in place additional safeguards to prevent activity of this type occurring in the future.”